Thursday, September 16, 2010

Better fare to be the bomb this fall

Who knew foodies were lurking beneath the beer-can hats and face paint? There’s no denying that today’s football fan, and the tailgating variety in particular, have been splicing some Rachel Ray episodes into the ESPN highlight reels.

Consider the findings of the Weber grill company’s annual survey of NFL ticket holders: Half of tailgaters, the fanatics who host a pre-game cookout outside the stadium, regard themselves as gourmets.

Half those parking-lot culinarians prefer to grill seafood instead of the usual burgers and brats. Perhaps not surprisingly, they tend to draw 20 fellow fans to sample their fare, compared with a mean of 14 for the pedestrian grillers.

Even more telling are stadium feeders’ announcements of the new restaurants they’re showcasing at pro arenas this season. The localization trend hasn’t taken a time-out during gridiron season. Contract management companies like Centerplate and Delaware North have added feeding stations that specialize in home-city favorites, from crab cakes at the Baltimore’s Raven’s home roost to a fried pork tenderloin sandwich at the Indianapolis Colts’ ballpark.

A competitor, Delaware North’s Sportservcie, said it searched for menu ideas in the New Jersey towns surrounding the concessionaire’s newest charge, the Meadowlands home of the Jets and the Giants. The rookie stadium is featuring such “Jersey Shore”-authentic fare as pepper and egg sandwiches and Nonna Fusco’s Meatballs, made from the recipe of Sportservice executive chef Eric Borgia.

Still, the management companies aren’t neglecting fans with more traditional stadium tastes. Centerplate-managed facilities will feature a 2 Point Conversion deal, or two hot dogs available at a combo price, and a refillable peanut cup for anyone who buys a drink to accompany the snack.

Sportservice said it will have 91 portable beer carts at the new Meadowland stadium.

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